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NASA: Asteroid Deflection Mission Successful

    NASA: Asteroid Deflection Mission Successful
    Last updated: 1 month ago
    Image credit: NASA [via BBC]

    Facts

    • On Tuesday, NASA announced that its test to deflect the asteroid Dimorphos two weeks ago succeeded beyond expectations - changing the asteroid's orbital path around a larger asteroid, Didymos, by 32 minutes. NASA official Lori Glaze stated, "For the first time ever, humanity has changed the orbit of a planetary body," and, "we are capable of deflecting an asteroid." [1]
    • On Sept. 26, NASA's spacecraft collided with Dimorphos at 14K mph in a mission known as DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test). The intent was to see if a near-Earth asteroid could be successfully deflected; a change in the trajectory of 10 minutes would have been considered a success. [2]
    • Scientists say that Dimorphos poses no threat to Earth. The goal of the mission was to see if the collision could slightly shorten the time it takes Dimorphos to orbit around Didymos. [3]
    • The test was part of a larger effort by NASA to identify and prepare for any possible threats to Earth. The agency hopes to launch an asteroid-specific space telescope, called NEO ["Near Earth Object"] Surveyor, which could launch in 2026 or 2028, depending on Congressional funding. [4]
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    Spin

    Narrative A

    While this mission may seem aimed at combating a far-fetched hazard, defending the planet from asteroids is incredibly important. Investing in planetary defense missions like DART brings us closer to preventing catastrophic events that have changed the course of life on Earth many times in the past.

    Narrative B

    If NASA is going to invest taxpayer funds into a low-probability, a high-impact threat like deflecting asteroids, a good offense is better than a strong defense. This means developing an aggressive early warning system and even being able to pulverize potential intruders. Asteroid defense is an expensive undertaking, so let's get it right.

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